A sect is a group of people who are united by some practices, opinions and religious beliefs which seperate them from other groups. Small sects and 'cults' have certain tendancies in common. They often regard wider society as corrupt and depraved. The prohibition of alcohol and tobacco is common. Sometimes, dramatic expectations about the future such as predictions of the end of the world or the dawning of a new era form the doctrines of the group. The founder is often a charismatic person who claims some special relationship with God.

Sects are commonly perceived as dangerous and harmful. Their members are often viewed as 'Apostles of Hatred'. Unfortunately, there is much evidence to support that view. For example, in Switzerland in 1994, the police found the bodies of forty eight members of an apocalyptic sect called the Order of Neo-Templars. The victims were probably poisoned with strong intoxicnts. A year later another sixteen bodies arranged in a way symbolising the sun were discovered in France.

Some sects build their financial power on people's naivety. One of the richest sects in the world is the Scientology Church which is 'sponsored' by many wealthy businessmen and artists. 

Polish people regard sects as a negative phenomenon. Unfortunately, the growing popularity of sects points to a crisis in the Catholic Vhurch, family and school. Although Poland is a democratic country which guarantees freedom of worship, the majority of Poles believes that the activity of sects constitutes a real menace to society and therefore should become illegal. Indeed, the fast race of expansion of sects in our country is a reason for concern. 

Sects have a destructive influence on their members. They use insidious psychological methods such as brain-washing, love-bombing and indoctrination to attract new followers.They usually recruit sensitive young people who see no sense in life and look for 'real' values. Those who have serious personal problems and feel lonely, depressed or rejected become especially vulnerable to manipulation.

The way in which the members are treated after they join a commune is very controversial. They are told to break off relations with their families and friends. Seperated from the outer world, they live under the constant control of a group and their freedom is considerably constrained. They must not watch tv, listen to the radio or read newspapers. They must give all their money to the despotic guru, obey his orders and accept his decisions. They fill their days with work, meditation, lectures and pseudo-religious practices. Some of them manage to awake from this deep sleep but the experience is very painful. After leaving the sect, they are often haunted, blackmailed and intimidated. The sect becomes the bane of their life. The return to 'normal' society takes a lot of time and requires a lot of effort. Undeniably, the sect leaves its stamp on their whole life.

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